AO3 News

Post Header

The OTW began receiving reports on Friday, February 14, about apps that are making available fanfic from AO3 without authorization. The first app is Fanfic Pocket Archive Library, which has been available on both the Apple and Google app stores. As far as the OTW can tell, this app provides an interface that allows users to access works on AO3, and it may not actually copy, store, or redistribute any data from AO3. This app has a premium option that allows users to access extra features of the app for a monthly fee; it also hosts ads. At the time of writing, it appears that this app has been removed from the Google Play store but remains available on the App Store.

The second app is actually not just one app, but a collection of them by a company called Woodsign j.d.o.o. The apps are available in the Apple app store. They are called Harry Potter Fan Fiction, P.J. Fan Fiction, K-POP Fan Fiction, Bulletproof Boys Scout / ARMY, 1D Fan Fiction, MCU Fan Fiction, Fantastic Beasts Fan Fiction, Sherlock Homes Fan Fiction, Slashfic, TWD Fan Fiction, and Real Person Fiction. These apps do appear to be redistributing fanworks. They also charge for access to many fanworks. We cannot say for sure that all works contained on these apps are being redistributed without permission, or that all of the works contained on these apps are from AO3, but user concerns and Tumblr discussion suggest that at least some are.

Below are some of the things we have told concerned users in responding to emails. We also highlight some of the steps users can take if they do not want their works on these (or other) apps or sites.

If you have further questions, please ask them here. That will make it easier for us to answer and will let more people benefit from the same information.

Can the OTW/AO3 get my work taken down from these apps?

The OTW does not own the copyright in the fanworks displayed on the Archive. When you post a work on the AO3, you give the Archive the right to display your work - that’s all. And that’s good! It means that when you post fanworks on AO3, you keep your copyrights. For that reason, the OTW cannot issue a copyright notice to apps on behalf of our users. Copyright owners, in this case affected fan authors, must do that for their own works. Although the OTW uses trademark law to ensure that app makers do not mislead users into thinking those apps are official OTW projects, we do not have any legal right to what you share on AO3. For that reason, we cannot get those works removed from other apps or sites.

As a fan author, do I even own the copyright in my fanworks?

Yes! As a fan author, you automatically own the copyright in your original expression. You don’t own any rights in elements of the canon you base your fanworks on, such as characters or settings, but you do own the rights in what you yourself have added to them. That means that people cannot copy and/or sell your fanworks without your permission.

What can I do if I do not want my works displayed on these apps?

Fan authors who find their works being distributed on apps without their permission can request that their works be removed. Most sites have takedown procedures (known as DMCA takedown procedures) that allow copyright owners, including fan authors, to request the removal of their works. Even if these particular apps do not have an official DMCA procedure, copyright owners can always use the contact information listed on the app’s description page to demand that their works be taken down from places they are not authorized. This means you can submit a notice containing the information below and ask the app maker to remove your works. As a matter of copyright law, sites or apps should comply with DMCA takedown notices and demands for removal.

What do I say in a DMCA takedown notice to get my works off an app I do not want them on?

If you want your works removed from one of the apps discussed (or anywhere else!), you can submit the information below in a takedown notice:

  • Your Name and/or Pseudonym as an e-signature
  • Link(s) to the unauthorized works (such as a link to the pdf, mobi, or hosting page) or other information sufficient to allow the site or app to identify the precise unauthorized works you want removed
  • Link(s) to an authorized version of your work (whether on AO3, Tumblr, or somewhere else)
  • An email address of the submitter (include it again even if it’s in the header)
  • This statement: “I have good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”
  • This statement: “The information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.”

Finally, both the Google and Apple app stores have procedures for reporting apps that infringe copyright. They can be found at the following links:

App store: https://www.apple.com/legal/internet-services/itunes/appstorenotices/#?lang=en

Google Play store: https://support.google.com/legal/troubleshooter/1114905

Comment

Post Header

Published:
2019-04-01 13:02:32 -0400
Tags:

Banner by Erin of a spotlight shining the OTW logo behind the text spotlight on legal issues

It's an active time for OTW's copyright-law advocacy, and if you're in or from New Zealand, we need your help! Here's what you can do.

We're hard at work arguing for fan-friendly law around the world. In addition to our continuing work in the EU and our upcoming testimony to the U.S. Copyright Office about the importance of safe harbors for online service providers, we'll also be submitting a comment to the government of New Zealand in connection with that country's review of its Copyright Act.

Here's where you come in! As we've done in many countries, including Canada, Australia, the U.S., and South Africa, we'd like our New Zealand submission to include first-hand accounts from New Zealanders about the benefits of laws that promote the creation and sharing of transformative works.

If you’re in or from New Zealand and have expressed yourself, gained skills, been part of creative communities, or otherwise experienced the benefits of being able to create transformative works, we’d love to hear your stories. They can be long or short--just give us some specifics about why making and enjoying fanworks matters to you, so we can include those stories in our submission.

The deadline is approaching quickly! Please send your stories to us by April 3 using our contact form (scroll down to "Legal Advocacy") or e-mailing us at legal [at] transformativeworks.org. (Feel free to use a pseudonym if you don't want us to share your personally identifying information.)

Comment

Post Header

Published:
2019-03-29 13:02:37 -0400
Tags:

Banner by Erin of a spotlight shining the OTW logo behind the text spotlight on legal issues

On March 26, by a pretty slim margin, the European Parliament passed the un-amended Digital Single Market Directive. This directive includes the fan-unfriendly provisions known as Articles 11 and 13 (now re-numbered to 15 and 17, but otherwise unchanged), which we have written about before in this space. We won’t sugarcoat it—it’s bad news—but it isn’t the end of the world. Nonprofit platforms like the AO3 will not be affected, and there are provisions designed to protect some of the sites and fan activities you (and we!) love. A lot remains to be seen. Here’s a close look at what the law means and what we can expect.

The European ministers still have to vote on the directive before it becomes final, but it is widely presumed that they will approve it. Assuming the European ministers approve it, the directive will then be transposed into national legislation by EU countries, at which point it will become law. Each country’s implementation may be slightly different, but will conform to the directive’s principles. Here are some of the key takeaways from the directive as it passed:

- The definition of "online content-sharing service providers" is limited to platforms whose main purpose is to “store and give the public access to a large amount of copyright-protected works or other protected subject matter uploaded by its users, which it organizes and promotes for profit-making purposes.” The directive therefore excludes non-profit platforms like the AO3.

- The definition also explicitly excludes "not-for-profit online encyclopedias, not-for-profit educational and scientific repositories, open source software-developing and-sharing platforms, [Internet service providers], online marketplaces, business-to-business cloud services and cloud services that allow users to upload content for their own use." That means that platforms like Wikipedia, Open Science Framework, GitHub, telecom companies, eBay, Etsy, Amazon Web Services, and Dropbox should also be safe from these provisions.

- For-profit "online content-sharing service providers" will be liable for copyright infringement by their users, and will have an obligation to obtain permission from copyright holders for providing user-uploaded copyrighted works. This means that some big sites will negotiate license agreements with major copyright holders to implement systems (like YouTube’s ContentID) that allow those copyright holders to block or monetize instances when users upload their copyrighted material.

- However, platforms will not be liable for infringing content if they implement notice-and-takedown and filtering systems to prevent uploading and re-uploading of material claimed by copyright owners. Although this has some things in common with the notice-and-takedown safe harbors in the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it places more intensive obligations on platforms. Industry standards will vary, but some sites will almost certainly install "filters" that try to prevent the upload of unauthorized material.

- The directive states that it "shall not lead to any general monitoring obligation" (although the consensus is that filters will be required) and that platforms must have an "effective and expeditious" way for users to dispute a block or takedown. Therefore, the directive requires that fans be provided with mechanisms to combat abusive takedowns, including the ability to dispute takedowns of non-infringing transformative works, although we don't know what those mechanisms will look like or how well they may work.

- The directive states that its implementation should "in no way affect legitimate uses, such as uses under exceptions or limitations" to copyright, and should "not result in the prevention of the availability of works ... which do not infringe copyright and related rights, including where such works or other subject matter are covered by an exception or limitation. Member States shall ensure that users in each Member State are able to rely on [exceptions for] quotation, criticism, review; use for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche." We don’t know how this will be implemented or how it can work with filters that can't tell whether these exceptions apply, but it provides countries with the opportunity to include significant exceptions in their laws implementing the directive. Fans may wish to contact their national legislators to emphasize the importance of protecting users' rights.

- The directive says that the standard should take into account "(a) the type, the audience, and the size of the service and the type of works or other subject matter uploaded by the users of the service; and (b) the availability of suitable and effective means and their cost for service providers." This means that in theory, smaller or less-resourced sites, sites whose main purpose is hosting non-infringing transformative works (like fanworks), and sites that focus on criticism and commentary can argue that they should not have to engage in filtering because filters are too expensive or are simply not suitable for dealing with the non-infringing transformative works they host. Although we cannot predict what they will do, fansites and popular for-profit fanwork platforms like Fanfiction.net, tumblr, Wattpad, and DeviantArt may be able to argue that they should not have to install upload filters. However, we can also predict that for-profit filtering providers will argue that their products are priced appropriately and that large copyright owners will argue that any sites that host video, audio, or images for profit should be required to filter.

- There is also an exemption for very small and very new platforms (less than 3 years old, average monthly unique visitors under 5 million, and annual turnover below EUR 10 million). This is a minimal exception, but it may allow new fansites and platforms a small opportunity to get on their feet before having to comply, if they can figure out a way to do so.

- Finally, the directive provides for research and stakeholder dialog on implementation. The OTW has joined a coalition that will be conducting such research and dialog, and will continue to fight for fans’ rights on the Internet!

If you don't live in the EU: Big copyright owners are seeking the same changes around the world, and will be asking the U.S. Copyright Office to support similar changes in April. Keep an eye out for a chance to let your legislators know that filters are a bad idea.

Have questions about the directive? OTW Legal is here to answer them.

Comment

Post Header

Published:
2019-03-16 12:56:06 -0400
Tags:

Banner by Erin of a spotlight shining the OTW logo behind the text spotlight on legal issues

Copyright lawmaking efforts continue in the EU, and we want to keep you informed. Our last post on this topic contained some good news. Our news this time is less good--the European Parliament is now considering a revised version of Article 13 that still contains fan-unfriendly provisions. This proposal only applies to for-profit sites, so the AO3 is still safe, but sites like YouTube and Tumblr are not--and there is still time to fight. Here's what the proposal means and what you can do!

In February, after the EU nations' Councils rejected a draft of Article 13, its supporters went back to the drawing board and created a revised version. A leaked copy of that version is available here. You can learn more about the history and summaries of the provisions here, here, and here.

Like the previous version, the revised version still only applies to for-profit sites, so it still would not have any impact on the AO3. But that doesn't mean it's good for fans! The revised version does contain exemption for very small and very young (less than three-year-old) startup platforms, and a provision under which users must be able to dispute wrongful blocking of material. But ultimately, it still contains many of the fan-unfriendly provisions that had existed in the earlier version. Importantly, it still places a burden on for-profit platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr to prevent the upload of infringing material. And although the revised Article 13 proposal purports to protect non-infringing uses such as quotation, criticism, review, parody, and pastiche, it is not clear whether platforms would be required to install algorithmic filtering mechanisms, which are notoriously bad at identifying those sorts of non-infringing uses.

You Can Help Fight This Proposal

On March 25-28, April 4, or April 15-18, the European Parliament will hold a Plenary Vote in which all 751 MEPs will vote on whether to accept this proposal. This vote can kill the bill or make changes to it, including removing Article 13. This vote will happen only a few weeks before the EU elections, so there is a particular opportunity for Europeans to make their voices heard. If you are European, contact your MEP, call or visit your MEPs' offices, visit campaign or party events, and let them know that this issue matters to you in the upcoming election! Some groups have organized protests around Europe on March 23. If you aren't European or in Europe, you can sign a petition to lend your voice to a record-breaking number of voices worldwide.

OTW Legal has fought against Article 13 since the beginning, and will continue to fight against this and other fan-unfriendly legal developments!

Comment

Post Header

Published:
2019-03-01 13:47:50 -0500
Tags:

Banner by Erin of a spotlight shining the OTW logo behind the text spotlight on legal issues

When you create or enjoy a fanwork, whether you know it or not, you are usually relying on the laws of fair use and fair dealing. These laws--known as fair use in some countries (including the U.S.) and fair dealing in others (including Canada and the U.K.)--are what allow fans to make and post fanworks based on pre-existing copyrighted work without being copyright infringers. Every year, organizations across the Internet celebrate this set of laws and all of the wonderful creativity they promote.

Fair use and fair dealing laws provide that certain uses of copyrighted material are not infringing, even if they are done without the permission of the copyright holder. Fair use laws favor uses that transform the meaning or purpose of an underlying work, that are distributed noncommercially, that use limited amounts of the underlying work, and that do not compete with the underlying work in the market. Fair dealing laws also favor transformative uses such as parody, commentary, criticism, and noncommercial user-generated content. The OTW stands for the proposition that transformative, noncommercial fanworks are fair use. OTW’s Legal advocacy project works to make sure that stays true, and to make sure that governments around the world recognize the value of fair use and fair dealing in making and interpreting their laws.

In the past, we’ve answered your questions about fair use and fair dealing, exploded some fair use misconceptions, and talked about how fair use and fair dealing laws apply to fanworks. We encourage you to check out those things, and the many wonderful posts and events that other organizations are putting on this week. We invite you to reach out to OTW Legal with your questions about fair use and copyright. And finally, we hope you celebrate fair use/fair dealing week this year by engaging in some fair use of your own!

Comment

Post Header

Published:
2019-01-18 20:12:05 -0500
Tags:

Banner by Erin of a spotlight shining the OTW logo behind the text spotlight on legal issues

On the last day of Copyright Week, the EU nations' Councils have voted on their positions on Article 13, and the majority have decided not to support it in its current form. This is good news for fans!

Article 13, as it was drafted, would have held many websites liable for user-created content, and in many cases would have required the use of filters that could have limited the availability of fanworks and other legitimate, non-infringing uses of copyrighted material. Although the proposal would not have affected nonprofits like the OTW--that is, AO3 would not have been affected--it still could have had a significant impact on other popular fan sites.

This result is powerful. It means that you can still continue to create fanworks and share them not only on AO3, but also on sites that would have been affected by Article 13, such as Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.

This is not the end of the road for Article 13--its supporters can go back to the drawing board to find a "qualified majority" of nations that would support it. But we should not lose sight of what this result means. It represents victory for users' rights. It shows that a significant proportion of European governments care about Internet users. And, perhaps most importantly, it shows that public attention to copyright law can make a difference.

This decision also keeps the EU in line with other nations' copyright law. For example, in the U.S., Internet hosts are protected by the "safe harbor" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"). Under the DMCA, hosts are not responsible for their users' actions as long as they take down infringing material when they are notified about it. This "notice and takedown" system provides protections for users, platforms, and copyright holders.

Although proposals like Article 13 might have prevented some infringement, they would be terrible for the Internet and for fair use/fair dealing. As a practical matter, these proposals would require hosts to use algorithmic filters to try and prevent users from uploading infringing material. Not only would such filters probably be ineffective at filtering out infringement, they'd also filter out plenty of non-infringing stuff. Because there simply aren't algorithms capable of filtering for fair use, a lot of fair uses--including a lot of fanworks--would undoubtedly get caught in such filters. We know you don't want that! OTW Legal has argued against mandatory filtering proposals, and will continue to do so.

Comment

Post Header

Published:
2018-12-08 11:44:41 -0500
Tags:

Banner by Erin of a spotlight shining the OTW logo behind the text spotlight on legal issues

Recently, Tumblr announced that it would be changing its terms of service to exclude adult content. OTW Legal has gotten some questions about that change, and we’re here to help answer them!

Will Tumblr’s change in TOS change anything about the Archive Of Our Own?

No--neither the AO3 nor the OTW (the nonprofit that operates the AO3) has any relationship at all with Tumblr. Tumblr made this decision on its own, not because of any particular change in the law that would have any impact on the AO3. The AO3 was founded on principles of “maximum inclusiveness” and those principles remain true.

Can we stop Tumblr from doing this? What about free speech?

When users sign up, they agree that Tumblr can make changes to its terms of service, and because Tumblr is a private company, it doesn’t have any obligation to protect free speech. So Tumblr is legally allowed to make this change, and there is nothing that OTW Legal can do about it. As for what users can do to stop Tumblr from changing its terms of service, the unfortunate answer is probably not much. The OTW’s This Week In Fandom post from December 4 discusses some user plans that may send a message to Tumblr. That said, Tumblr surely knows it will lose many users, and it has undoubtedly made a cost-benefit calculation that the lost users won’t be too harmful to its bottom line.

What can fans do to protect their own fanworks and the works of others before Tumblr starts taking things down?

As appealing as the idea seems, the OTW is not in a position to create a social media platform of its own, and there are no plans for the OTW to offer a social media site or forum. We talk some more about why that’s true, and what fans can do to preserve their work, in a Tumblr post on December 4.

One of the ways to preserve your fanworks is to host text-based fanworks on AO3. If there’s a work you posted to Tumblr that you’d like to share on AO3, you can check out the FAQ on how to post it as a new work. (Tumblr posts don’t always work well with the importing feature, unfortunately.) AO3 can’t host images, video, or audio (yet), but if you host the files somewhere else, you can still share them on AO3.

Do you know someone who would like to share their works on AO3 but doesn't have an account? No problem! We've given 8 invite codes to all users who have had an account for 6 months or more and have:

  • posted at least 1 work, or
  • left at least 5 comments, or
  • given at least 10 kudos

Since we’re generating a lot of invitations (over 7 million!), it might take a few days for them to arrive in your account, so don’t worry if you haven’t gotten them just yet! You can follow these instructions to access and share your invite codes with anyone who wants an account.

What will Tumblr’s change in TOS mean for fans and fanworks overall?

For now, Tumblr appears to be targeting visual material (as opposed to text), although we do not know what Tumblr has planned. We expect that whatever happens, Tumblr’s filters will be inaccurate; Tumblr users have already reported incidents of content being falsely identified as 'adult'. This sort of algorithmic flagging is a problem that OTW Legal has been fighting in other contexts: in legal advocacy submissions to governments around the world, we have consistently expressed concerns about how algorithms are bad at identifying and flagging content, whether for alleged copyright violations or other matters. For that reason, we have been strong advocates against legally mandating automated filters, and have encouraged fans to reach out to their elected representatives (especially in the EU, where such proposals are pending) about legal filtering proposals that may adversely impact the availability of fanworks. Tumblr is just one example of what can happen.

It’s hard to predict what this will mean for fans and fanworks in a larger sense, but we are confident that this is just a bump in a long road. Although the OTW has long planned to be able to host non-text works on the AO3, we are still a long way away from being able to do that (and we wish that we could do it right now!). Certainly, a lot of fans will move to services other than Tumblr. But fandom is resilient! Fans and fanworks have been through similar dramatic events with popular sites in the past, including LiveJournal, fanfiction.net, and DeviantArt. In fact, it was a similar policy change at LiveJournal 10 years ago that led to the founding of the OTW and AO3! After seeing that commercial platforms such as LiveJournal (and Tumblr) will always serve their own interests over the interests of fans, the OTW dedicated the AO3 to the principle that fans need a fan-operated, non-profit archive of our own. We can’t predict or recommend what the next best platforms are to replace Tumblr, but we can promise that with your support, we’ll continue to provide a home for fanworks at the AO3, and continue working toward a platform that can host multiple media types. OTW Legal will continue to fight to keep fanworks legal and available.

Comment

Post Header

Published:
2018-09-18 12:15:20 -0400
Tags:

Banner by Erin of a spotlight shining the OTW logo behind the text spotlight on legal issues

We've written before in this space about Articles 11 and 13 -- fan-unfriendly legal proposals in the EU. On September 12, the European Parliament voted in favor of those proposals. Is it bad? Yes. Is it the end of the story? No. Is it going to change the AO3? Probably not. What can you do about it? Read on.

Articles 11 and 13 impose new requirements on sites that host user content, like the AO3, Tumblr, YouTube, and the like. In the United States, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects these sites from some kinds of copyright liability, so that the sites aren't responsible for infringing content posted by their users unless the sites know it's there and that it's infringing. That's why most sites have "notice and takedown" policies: if they're warned about infringing content, they have to take it down -- and they're allowed to take fair use into consideration when they decide whether or not to take a work down. Articles 11 and 13 put the burden of preventing infringement on sites, rather than users, and make some very incorrect assumptions about the ability of algorithms to identify what uses infringe and what uses are non-infringing fair uses.

Why are these Articles bad for fans? They make sites liable for infringing material that their users post. They also create new copyright-like rights for press publications, and they make sites liable for "snippets" of press publications that their users post. These rules expect that instead of waiting to be warned about infringing material, sites would have to put in filters that prevent the uploading of infringing material. There is no exception for user-generated content, and as we've seen in other settings, the sort of algorithms that upload filters would have to use are notoriously over-inclusive. That means that the filters would often not be able to tell the difference between transformative fanworks (which generally don't infringe, often because of fair use and related principles) and piracy (which does infringe).

The language that was passed on September 12 contains nonprofit exceptions, as well as exceptions for small businesses. Based on these exceptions, the AO3 would not have to engage in filtering -- so nothing is likely to change around here! -- but other sites that fans use, like Tumblr, YouTube, and Wattpad, will be affected. And despite the exceptions, nonprofit sites (like the AO3) and small businesses that use commercial cloud-based services like AWS (Amazon) or Google’s Cloud for storage could still face massive increases in the cost to stay online, get server space, etc. It's impossible to predict the impact on sites like Goodreads and Pinterest. YouTube has posted a statement on the problems posed by the law, and it looks like they're going to keep fighting against the worst possibilities for its implementation.

So this is bad news. But it's also not the end of the story!

The Articles are not law yet. There are still opportunities to fight them. They go up for a final vote in January, and there are opportunities for change between now and then. If the Articles do pass in January, the process of "national implementation" would then begin: each country in the EU would begin to make its own laws based on the Articles. Every country's laws might implement the Articles quite differently -- some good, some bad. There will be battles over specific wording in every country.

So if you’re a citizen or resident of an EU country, reach out to your MEPs. This chart shows how each party voted. The SaveYourInternet site has an interactive tool that shows how MEPs in each country voted, and how to contact yours. This page explains how to see how your particular MEPs voted. If they voted against Article 13, contact them to thank them for doing the right thing! If they voted for it, tell them why they made the wrong choice and should change their mind when the January vote happens. Explain to them how this law will impact you personally; tell your story. Get involved with a national organization that is fighting against this law, and one that’s ready to push back against it in the courts – especially where it can curtail free speech, which is a fundamental right held by all EU residents.

As our friends at FYeahCopyright put it: "Pushing against this Directive doesn’t mean you support piracy or counterfeiting of creative works like films, books or photographs. It means, though, that you want creativity, science, communications and education to thrive online, just as they have for almost thirty years."

Comment


Pages Navigation